Miami for Mallett? Arkansas QB makes believer of Dolphins

Some people believe the Miami Dolphins should spend their first-round draft pick on a quarterback. Jeff Ireland might, too.

The Dolphins' general manager acknowledged Thursday that he has "spent a lot of time" with Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, who comes with a big throwing arm but big off-the-field questions.

"I went there to visit with him. He's come here to visit with me and to visit with him as well," Ireland said of Mallett at a pre-draft news conference. "I feel like we've been very thorough ... in that process, much like we are with every player that we are considering drafting.

"Sometimes when there's information out there, you want to dispel rumors and get as much information that you can with any player out there, and that's why we went through the process. He's a nice young man, very talented kid, got a bright future."

That future could be in Miami, which owns the 15th overall pick but has Chad Henne and Tyler Thigpen on its roster. Those quarterbacks might not fit what Ireland wants.

"You're looking for Peyton Manning. You're looking for Tom Brady," Ireland said when asked how he evaluates quarterbacks. "You're looking for all those things, obviously. You're looking for arm strength. You're looking for accuracy. You're looking for a quick release. You're looking for good footwork. You're looking for intangibles. You're looking for smarts. You're looking for mentally tough. ...

"You just have to go through the process of evaluating that when you're with the kid, watching through tape, watching tape with the kid. There's a certain process that you go through, and we felt like we've done our due diligence there."

With many needs, no second-round selection and only two of the first 110 picks, the Dolphins would love to trade down in the first round for multiple picks. Ireland didn't rule out trading up, either.

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"I'm game for anything," he said. "I think there will be quite a bit of movement."

Next week's draft will be the Dolphins' first since Bill Parcells stepped down in September after 2½ years as head of football operations. That means more authority for Ireland, a Parcells protege who's entering his fourth draft in Miami.

"Bill had an aura, and he always made it fun, but everybody knew when it was time to get down to business," Ireland said. "That really hasn't changed. I'm not naive in the fact that I don't have that aura, but really the mechanics have not changed.

"As a matter of fact," Ireland added with a smile, "we're probably more focused on just work most of the time, because there was usually some storytelling involved in the draft room."

In Parcells' absence, Ireland will rely more heavily on Brian Gaine, whose promotion to director of player personnel was announced Thursday. Gaine primarily worked on the evaluation of pro players and now assesses college talent, too.

"He's going to be my right-hand man, since Bill has left," Ireland said.

Ireland, Gaine and the rest of the Parcells regime have a respectable track record in the draft. The 2010 class produced five players who saw significant duty, although top pick Jared Odrick missed almost the entire season because of injuries. The 2009 group included second-round bust Pat White but also four players who became starters. Top 2008 pick Jake Long blossomed into an All-Pro tackle, but the jury's still out on second-round pick Henne as a long-term solution at quarterback.

Although the NFL labor dispute has delayed addressing roster deficiencies in free agency, Ireland said he won't reach in the draft to fill a position.

"Free agency will open up again," Ireland said. "Brian Gaine has reminded me of that about a thousand times."

One benefit of the lockout has been allowing teams to focus solely on the draft. Ireland said the entire scouting department and coaching staff has been involved in preparations, and the work has been so thorough, he's giving his staff an Easter break.

"It has been all hands on deck," he said. "You are prepared for it, for sure."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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